(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have made strides defensively from last season, but the winless team needs to be much better offensively as well.The Kings look to avoid their first 0-4 start in four seasons in Monday night's home opener against the Golden State Warriors, who are seeking their first 3-0 road start in 18 years.With the Kings ranking last in the NBA last season in scoring defense (104.4 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (47.6), coach Keith Smart put an emphasis on improving those numbers coming into 2012-13. The result has been Sacramento giving up 97.0 ppg and 39.2 percent shooting, while Kings opponents have gone 8 for 48 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.Sacramento's second-half defense has been even more impressive, as the club is allowing an average of 42.0 points and 34.8 percent shooting.The Kings limited Indiana to 35 total points in the third and fourth quarters Saturday, but couldn't overcome giving up 38 in the second quarter of a 106-98 double-overtime loss."We gotta figure out a way to keep that (second-half) defense for 48 minutes," guard Tyreke Evans said. "We get down and then we try to pick it back up. We can't do that. We've got to start from the beginning. I think that's how we're going to get our first win."Improved shooting might also help that happen. The Kings, who opened 0-4 in 2008-09, are scoring 88.3 points per game and hitting 37.5 percent from the field."The thing is, we were so focused on being a defensive team. We kinda want to worry about the offense now," said big man DeMarcus Cousins, who's shooting 38.9 percent - well below his career mark of 43.8.The Warriors (2-1) have not won their first three road games since 1994-95. In their last trip to Sacramento on March 13, Golden State won a season-best third consecutive road contest 115-89.The Warriors are looking to build on Saturday's 114-110 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. A day earlier, reserve guard Brandon Rush was lost for the season with an ACL tear."We don't quit," coach Mark Jackson said. "We had every reason to quit, but we gutted it out and we defended."That defense and the team's rebounding could improve with center Andrew Bogut expected to return after missing one game, with rookie Festus Ezeli recording eight points and five rebounds in his place Saturday. For the time being, the Warriors do not plan on playing Bogut on back-to-back nights due to the fractured left ankle he suffered last season Milwaukee.The Warriors are outrebounding opponents by 5.3 per contest, with David Lee and Carl Landry leading the way with 50 combined boards.The Kings, who have been outrebounded by an average of 12.0, had a 199-158 advantage on the glass against Golden State last season but dropped three of four.
The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon.
Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.
From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.
“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”
Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.
“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”
So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.
“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.
Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.
“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”
With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.
Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”
Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.
With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back.
Wins are getting harder to come by for the Sacramento Kings. On Sunday afternoon, they battled all the way down the stretch and it looked like they were headed for a fifth straight loss. And then Buddy Hield and his young teammates fought back to shock the Los Angeles Clippers by a final of 98-97.
Hield caught fire late, scoring 11 of his 15 points in a wild outburst during the fourth quarter. The Kings shooting guard added seven rebounds and brought his team back with a steal and pair of 3-pointers late.
Willie Cauley-Stein hit the glass hard, grabbing 14 rebounds while scoring eight points at the center position. His bucket with 1.8 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner.
Darren Collison went to work against his former Clipper teammates. The veteran point guard went in attack mode early, knocking down his first eight shots. He finished the night with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and four assists.
Anthony Tolliver sat in the corner and waited for the kick out from his teammates. The result was a 5-for-6 shooting night from long range and a solid 15-point performance.
Georgios Papagiannis came off the bench to support Cauley-Stein in the pivot and continued to show improvement. The rookie 7-footer out of Greece altered plenty of shots in his 21 minutes on the floor and finished the night with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Tyreke Evans started at the small forward spot and chipped in eight points and four rebounds and Ben McLemore added eight points in limited minutes.
The Clippers stars shined brightly Sunday at the Staples Center. Chris Paul set up his teammates from start to finished, dropping in 17 points and dishing out nine assists in the loss.
DeAndre Jordan went for 20 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Griffin shot 6-for-11 from the field for 17 points added six rebounds and Austin Rivers hit 2-for-7 from deep to finish with 10 points.
Hield was the hero. He struggled for the first three quarters, but came up big in the fourth to push his team over the top.
Cauley-Stein grabbed a rebound and put it back in with 1.8 seconds remaining and Sacramento held on for the huge win.
Ty Lawson was a late scratch with a knee issue and both Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos sat for scheduled rest. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.
Following the game in Los Angeles, the Kings hopped a plane back to Sacramento where they’ll face the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night at Golden 1 Center.